What I’ve learned in my first year.
On September 3rd, 2014, My family and I packed up and headed North. A year ago today, I attended my first service as Associate Pastor, at Whitehorse Baptist Church, Yukon Territory. We were finally home.
And I say home, because for years my wife and I dreamt of serving in the Yukon. And more than a dream; a slow steady calling on our lives by God, to serve the people of this Northern city.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year. My first year of ministry here has been a blur. Some of my expectations have been filled and other expectations; I was vastly mistaken.
6 Lessons for Northern Ministry
This morning, as I celebrate 1 year of ministry in the Yukon, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned in 1 year of Northern ministry.
1. Don’t Make Assumptions
This year, I’ve learned that Whitehorse is a city where cultures collide.
Many years ago, the first Europeans arrived. This started a massive cultural collision with the First Nations people. Many assumptions were made and few relationships built. The pain and discord remain.
Fast-forward to today, and many other cultures have moved into Whitehorse, bringing their cultures and faiths with them. This includes the over 2000 Philippine people immigrating to the Whitehorse area to support our tourism and service industry.
Some assume that these folks are going to return home. But many of the Filipino, East Indian, Middle Eastern and other people groups are making the Yukon their home. All signs point to, they’re here to stay.
Instead, Make Friendships
Long gone are the days where social groups congregate within their race and demographic. Having friendships within a number of cultures is becoming the norm. Even the Northern Church must adjust to this cultural shift.
Friendships absolutely need to be built with the Native community, who have little to no trust for the church, because of the broken relationships of days gone by. First Nations People need to see Jesus through relationship, not institution.
And of course, friendships must be built with our recent immigrants. The world has come to our doorstep and the world needs Jesus Christ. To have ministry success, here in the Yukon, relationships with these new arrivals must be a primary focus.
2. Don’t Make Plans
This year, I’ve learned that plans change.
A year ago I started working at our church as the fourth staff member added to the team. Within 4 months, I was one of two staff members. And I recently found out that my last teammate will be moving to part-time starting this week.
In a Northern community, the pool of potential ministry staff is small. Who will fill these roles? Who will fill their responsibilities? Without the right people in place, effective ministry can be difficult.
I love our church and I don’t want any ministry to suffer. Little by little, I find myself taking on one more task, one more project, one more…
Instead, Make Time
It’s going to be difficult, but I’ve got to fight the urge to take on every little task and project. Instead, I’ll have to schedule time not spent on tasks and projects. Specific time scheduled around our people, our community, my family and most importantly, time with God.
Yes, some things may get missed. If we don’t have the people to achieve a particular task or project, we may need to prayerfully consider whether God‘s calling us to achieve it.
This next stage of ministry will have to be a faith-filled one. I know that God has a better plan than I could ever come up with. I’ve got to purposefully change my thinking to embrace patience, trust and submission. He’ll provide what and who is needed.
3. Don’t Make Demands
This year, I’ve learned that making demands for change is a useless endeavour.
And not just in church life; in our culture as a whole. Gone are the days where leaders could simply tell someone what to do and where to go. The why is far too important. Change comes with questions and we had better have some good answers.
In Northern communities, independence is highly valued. New thoughts and ideas may be prevalent, but not always widely accepted. Therefore, change through a list of orders or demands will never work.
Instead, Make Coffee
So how will change come about? In a phrase, slower is quicker. I’ve posted about this concept before, that it starts with coffee. Sharing a cup of coffee (and a conversation) may seem like a waste of time, but its a fast-forward technique for change.
True change comes from sharing ideas, not demanding outcomes.
Knowing who we’re speaking with gives us valuable information into who they are, what they value, what motivates them and what they would (or would not) be willing to change. All of this will help us achieve future ministry goals and objectives.
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